Frank Sent Me

Frank Sent Me is a gangster comedy that mixes fine moments with trite ones. The set-up is that Howe has done something to upset his boss Frank. Frank sends round someone to bump him off, which Howe is stoically resigned to. The problem is that Frank sends round a sixteen-year-old boy who is a virgin in the art of bumping people off. The typical scenario is flipped upside-down with a target who wants to be killed and a killer who doesn’t want to do it.

This is a good, solid show, but like Howe, Frank Sent Me fails to be a hit.

The premise is very good but the execution in both the acting and the writing is closer to competent. Matthew Gibbs as Wallace has very good comic timing but he never resolves the question of why his character is so blasé. His lover is about to be killed and he acts like he has just been told his Amazon order will arrive two days late. Although this emotional discrepancy is part of the comedy it never quite makes sense with the character.

Rob Pomfret is suitably menacing as Howe and he has good chemistry with Gibbs, his lover. Their final scene together is genuinely moving and hits just the right notes. It is also nice to see a play that revolves around gay characters where the show does not centre on the fact that they are gay. However, this novelty is slightly hampered by quite how stereotypical the characters are.

There is camp, domesticated, cares-about-clothes-and-perfume Wallace and his partner Howe who is the hard man, not good at expressing his feelings, unsure of how to dress but sure knows how to kill a man, grrrrr. It’s typical butch and fem without much subversion. The characterisation in this respect ends up being about as subtle as chalk and cheese.

Being a gangster comedy, all the characters speak typical geezer dialogue where every line ends in a question. “You would do that, wouldn’t you?” “I would, would I?” “Didn’t you?” “Well I don’t know, do I?” “But if you don’t know, who does?” It goes on and on. It feels like Pinter without the poetry. While sometimes the rapid fire back-and-forth gets some laughs, there is not enough wit in it to ever make them particularly loud laughs.

This is a good, solid show, but like Howe, Frank Sent Me fails to be a hit. 

Reviews by Rory Mackenzie

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The Blurb

Underworld enforcer Howe’s not afraid to die, but it would've been nice if Frank had sent someone vaguely competent to do the job. Partner in life and crime Wallace isn’t doing much to ease his mind on that score, ‘they made a terrible mess of the last one. First bullet only took his ear off’. A bleakly comic Ortonesque farce by Julian Poidevin, directed by Peter Darney. Winner of Writer’s Avenue’s Best Play Award. ‘Pick of the Week’ (Telegraph on Kindness).